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Three Tech Features Parents of Teenage Drivers Should Know About

Published April 2, 2018

The freedom that comes from passing your driving test, and obtaining a driverís license, is a wonderful and memorable feeling, for both the excited (and most likely teenage) recipient and the relieved parents. For years it is likely that the parents played the role of taxi driver and chauffeur, ferrying their kids to school, to sports and music practice, picking them up late from parties, being part of a car pool service, and so on. Finally after the best part of two decades the parents can take a breath and a step back, right? Well, probably not, if the angst they feel watching their own flesh and blood drive off with just the minimum amount of experience required, in a 2,500lb or more block of steel and alloy. For some parents, there will be a lot of pressure on them to let their kids borrow a car, or to drive the car they may have bought themselves, and a lot of that is to do with driving dangerously, distractions from others in the car, or showing off and its associated dangers.
However, companies (both automotive and general tech-driven) have for some time now built in a lot of features to give parents and car owners some peace of mind when teens are behind the wheel of a car. The response has been to have systems in place that limit speed most importantly limit the vehicleís top speed, limit the distractingly loud audio volume or even mute it in some cases (say until passengers are all buckled up), and to keep safety features like blindspot alert activated. Manufacturers normally bundle them together, so weíve looked at what a couple of automotive players offer, plus picked two advanced features that will give you either peace of mind or cause for concern, or possibly both. These focus on vehicle programming, vehicle tracking, and mobile phone use limiting.

Ford has a remarkably comprehensive system tied into its MyKey security system. Introduced in 2010 across its entire range of cars, MyKey can be used to configure a specific key to have maximum speed limit of 80mph configured, and audio volume can be reduced to a maximum of 45%. This all needs to be pre-configured with the assistance of a carís primary admin key. You can also set up your teen driverís key to not disable ESP and traction control, set reminders for passing 45, 55 or 65 mph, and Do Not Disturb mobile phone mode.

Chevroletís Teen Driver Technology is similar to Fordís MyKey, but it also comes with the addition of a Driving Report Card, a record of each drive that can highlight certain parameters like the number of times wide open throttle was used and any overspeed warnings, or when safety systems like forward collision alert or traction control intervened. Chevrolet hopes this will act as both a deterrent to erratic and dangerous driving, and also as a tool to encourage parents and teenagers to identify potentially dangerous habits and promote more responsible driving.

One feature that is becoming more widespread is the ability to track a vehicleís location. While first used specifically to track a company car or stolen vehicleís whereabouts, the additional benefit comes from being able to see where your (or your teenagerís) car is being driven. Made aware of this ability, the young driver may be less inclined to skip out early on a house party and go into town without permission, or go highway racing on the way home. This technology is already built into some cars, but tracking devices can be retrofitted to vehicles as well.

There would be few, if any, teenagers in the USA without a mobile phone, and as such there would be few who wonít be distracted by the constant beeping of social media updates and friends calling. Another device that can be retrofitted is a device to block incoming calls and SMS, with some able to send an alert to the parent and leave a message stating that the driver is unavailable at that moment. Some are advanced enough to mute all incoming notifications and, once the driver has stopped driving, then send the notifications to them. Smartphone apps have been developed to do similar, and Appleís iPhone has a Do Not Disturb While Driving Feature which is an easy and useful deterrent.

While some of these features require a subscription fee, ranging from just a few dollars a month to several hundred dollars a year, itís small change when you consider it could be the difference between a safe drive home or an unwanted detour to hospital.
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